Eye See Myths


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   Ever hear that if you sit too close to a television or if you read in the dark that you may damage your eyes?  According to webmd.com this is a myth.  

The Science behind it according to Dr. Oz: (video)
  The muscles in the eye that allows the lens to adapt depends on the brightness of light.  Little muscles work hard to pull on the lens and sometimes strain the lens.  Then the blood vessels on the white part of your eye dilate and get blood shot eyes.  Your eyes may be strained and uncomfortable but does this do further damage on your eyes?
The colorful part of your eye, the iris, closes to let the light inside and opens up when it is dark outside. Just like the muscles in your body that burn after you work out, your eyes do that same thing. 
  The only thing that can contribute to damaged eyes is typically hereditary.  This all depends on your family's genes.  As an individual gets older, they start to lose their eye sight.  It is a common fact among aging people.  Obviously aging people do not want to blame their loss of sight on them getting older, so people look for other things to blame it on such as reading in the dark or sitting too close to a television.  

Scienceonline.org Science Behind Reading in the Dark: 
  Muscles around the iris relax.  Then the pupil dilates which enables more light to enter the back of the eye.  This part of the eye is where your photoreceptor cells are.  These are called cones and rods.  This turns light into useful information for the brain.  As a room gets darker, cones and rods enhance the ability to transform the light.  These cells kick in for a few hours but then get back to normal once the light does too. 
  When you are reading in the dark have you ever had to pull the book closer so that the black letters can stand out to you a little more? While you are doing this your ciliary muscle, which is around the lens of your eye, contracts.  It reshapes it so the light that is entering your eye is redirected in the back of your eye.  The reason this may make a person nauseous or give you headaches is because your muscles are working harder than they are used to.  
  
  TLC has the same ideas.  According to their article reading in the dark gives your eyes mixed signals.  Your eyes want to relax to collect the most light possible, but they also want to contact to keep focused on the image or words you are reading.  This activity is called visual acuity.  Your eyes are working harder to separate the words from the page, as if it were 3D.  Also, your eyes may become strained because if you are staring at something trying to maintain focus, you are not blinking enough.  This will cause dryness in your eyes.  

  Even though there are not many experiments done or published that speak about this myth, the evidence is clear.  Most doctors and stories about losing or hurting your eyesight permanently are false.   Our eyes are just straining muscles that cause the eye to burn or be uncomfortable; however, the damage is only temporary, just like the muscles we use to workout.  The pain may be there for the time being or even the next day, but eventually it goes away. 

  Do you still believe the myth?  Are you going to feel better reading in the dark now or sitting close to the tv? I hope this changed some of your minds and gives you some more freedom to read when and where whenever you want, dark or light.  

*The articles used are the ones hyperlinked into the article*

4 Comments

Being one who always read in the dark, your blog was a relief but I wanted to read a little more into it. In an article in the New York Times brought another factor into the argument. While the article concedes with your point that reading in the dark probably does not have a direct impact on the decline of eyesight, it also notes that some researchers are claiming that straining your eyesight through reading in the dark or simply reading for long periods when younger, can have a lasting effect on your eyesight. This conclusion is loosely based on data that shows higher rates of eyesight decline in those who achieved the highest level of education. While the logic around this correlation is shaky as the reading habits of those people when they were younger have not been studied, it is still an interesting idea to consider. Is being a bookworm damaging to your eyesight?
Here is a link to the New York Times Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/04/health/04real.html

there should definitely be studies conducted at random with this experiment. it would be well worth it to see the eye functions play into a random controlled trial to test and see if your eyes are more effective in less luminated environments

The evidence you gave from these articles definitely makes me want to believe that this is really a myth and not true at all. All the facts make sense that its not true, however, I would definitely be more into believing it if some experiments were made to prove it. Just a couple of websites saying its a myth does not validate anything. For this to be widely accepted, experiments proving it to be true will help tremendously. I found a website from Vanderbilt University (given below) stating how exactly reading in dark or dim light damages eyesight. In order for this "myth" to be actually considered fictional, we must experiment.

http://healthpsych.psy.vanderbilt.edu/2008/ReadingVision.htm

This reminded me of an earlier blog I commented on entitled "Will Sitting Close to the TV Hurt My Eyes?". Turns out this is now a myth, but it was inspired by a real-life threat in the 1960s. I don't believe the myth anymore thanks to the blog posts about it that are full of reliable sources. However, I do feel as though choosing not to read in dim light is simply due to the discomfort it causes, rather than the threat of damaging my eyesight.
The fact that you addressed these myths makes me think of another possible myth that needs some proving. I have awful eyesight so I've been wearing contacts for seven years. I once asked my optometrist which of the following would make my eyesight deteriorate more quickly: not wearing glasses/contacts and straining my eyes or wearing them constantly and building a dependency on them. He didn't have a clear answer, but I wonder if there is one out there? It would make for a really interesting follow-up blog!

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